What a year of wildlife it has been! Read each one of Angama Mara's guides' top sighting for 2016
What a year it has been. As 2016 draws to a close, we asked our guides to share their sightings highlights of 2016. The Mara Triangle never fails to delight our guests regardless of season, month, time of the day or duration of the game drive. They all come back to the lodge with their eyes spinning with what they have just seen as the stories below so vividly capture.
Daniel Njiriri – One day my guests and I viewed two male elephants as they threatened one another, charging and thrashing bushes, trees, and termite hills. We waited to see if the posturing would turn into a fight, but before they came closer an oblivious male buffalo, minding his own business, wandered in between the two angry elephants. One of the elephants saw him and immediately charged. The poor buffalo tried to escape, but ran towards the other elephant, which lowered its head and lifted the buffalo two metres off the ground, using his trunk and tusks. When the buffalo landed, he seemed to be unconscious and we thought for sure that the elephant was going to stomp on him. But the other elephant was already there, so they both stopped, with the buffalo in between them, staring at each other. Suddenly the buffalo woke up and took off at full speed, running for his life. As he escaped, the two elephants were left sizing each other up, but both thought better of it and turned and walked away. It was an unforgettable sighting.
Fred Ole Sinoni – I set off for an early walk and shortly after entering into the forest I witnessed an astonishingly rare sighting: an unbelievable congregation of avian assembly. It was a display contest between two high canopy forest treasures, Ross’s versus Schalow’s Turacos. A flock of more than ten of both species perched on the same leafless tree as if they wanted me to judge who’s more splendid than the other. It was an overwhelming show of colour and magnificence.
Jackson Etoot – One fine day in April, my guests and I were enjoying a pride of 8 lions by ourselves – no other vehicles, just us. As we were about to leave, something caught my eye. One of the sub-adult males was stalking and the rest were very alert, facing the same direction. Here comes the most meanest and fearless animal of all: the honey badger! No matter what tactics the young lion tried the badger bravely countered using all its defensive abilities to push the youngster back for a few metres before making for a small termite mound. The lion carefully followed at a safe distance, and the other sub-adults joined in. The badger became very aggressive, again pushing them back before managing to find a refuge hole. The meanest, most fearless animal once gain proved that lions are not necessarily King of the Jungle.
Dan Ouma – During my more than ten years of guiding, I have seen many kills. But this year, I witnessed a kill that I had never seen before. I was on an afternoon drive along the Oloololo Ridge when I heard an eagle calling. Looking through my binos, I noticed a martial eagle underneath a Balanites tree, struggling to pin a small animal down. I couldn’t clearly see what it was, and I didn’t want to edge closer for fear of disturbing it. We watched quietly as the struggle continued. We couldn’t believe our eyes when it finally flew to the top of the tree, with its kill in its talons: a large scrub hare gripped firmly in its grasp during the short but difficult flight to the top of the tree. The hare appeared to be very heavy and we thought it might drop. It was amazing to see such a powerful bird making a kill.
John Peenko – My best sighting was seeing 8 Narina Trogon and 5 Ross’s Turaco very close together during one walking safari. I also enjoyed seeing a chameleon swallowing a grasshopper. On another day, we surprised a pride of 5 lions near our Sundowner Boma site, and they growled at us as we walked by – but being a Maasai, I wasn’t scared.
Sammy Komu – This sighting is not for the faint hearted. During an afternoon drive we spotted a lioness just below Angama. She looked very relaxed, so we got a little closer. As we did so, we noticed that she had four little cubs. It was a sighting to behold: the cubs were playful and my guests were thrilled. The mother stood up and walked out in the open and we followed her, hoping for a good picture. As soon as she left the forest we heard growling and rushed back to see what was happening. We were shocked to find big male lion biting one of the cubs and a lifeless body of another one lying on the grass next to it. The other two cubs hid, and by that time the mother had come back and managed to fight off the male. It was a really sad day for us, but part of the circle of life and a fascinating event to witness.
Moses Kibet – It was early afternoon as I headed out looking for leopard and cheetah. Unfortunately there was a heavy downpour in the direction we intended to go. As we were formulating plan B, zebras, eland, topi, and warthogs suddenly came running up the hill at top speed, with a lioness in hot pursuit. She had missed and settled on a termite mound. From nowhere, two lionesses approached and greeted her with much snarling that she had missed the kill. Over the horizon came a mother warthog and her piglet. In unison, the lionesses headed stealthily up the hill, and without so much as a word, they spread out and disappeared over the horizon. Ten minutes later, they reappeared and, after a zigzag wild chase, the piglet was no more. After the first few bites the squabbles started, each lioness with a mouthful of the poor piglet while they growled menacingly at one another. This standstill continued for 20 minutes until they finally managed to tear the piglet into three pieces. During all this mayhem, every animal in the vicinity watched this bizarre squabble: elephants, a herd of 300 buffalo, and a black rhino. The lioness that messed up the first attempt ended up with the smallest chunk, which she later compensated for by bringing home the prize of the day: a full grown male warthog, almost 80kgs. What an afternoon!
John Githinji – During the migration, we headed to the Mara River as the previous day there was a big herd of wildebeest on the Greater Mara side, and we thought they’d likely cross at Main Crossing. Luckily when we arrived the herd was still there, gathering courage to cross to the Mara Triangle. To my surprise, there was only one large crocodile ready to ambush. When the herd started crossing, the crocodile swam upstream and violently grabbed a wildebeest and swiftly drowned it before swimming towards the bank with the carcass and storing it where the current was slow, before turning back around towards the crossing wildebeest. Over the next 20 minutes, as we watched in astonishment, the crocodile killed three more wildebeest and a zebra, each time returning to cache them in the same place. When the crossing stopped, the crocodile, whom I had learnt was the dominant male in that area, went to the bank near his kills and lay down to bask. I had never before witnessed this type of behavior.
Geoffrey Njoroge – We came upon two leopards mating in a tree. The huge male decided to come down, and on the way to a cool sleeping spot he came across a Nile monitor, which he tried to hunt, but missed. Then, looking back to where the female leopard was, a dikdik came looking for shade in her tree, and made for a very nice breakfast for that female leopard.
Sophie Sadera – It was a wonderful day: we started our drive with the mission of exploring the Mara Triangle, and just before we got to the Hippo Pools, I noticed a lioness slink across from one bush to the other. I told my guests that this is the place where zebras come to drink – something that the lioness undoubtedly also knew. If we waited we would likely witness a kill. It was amazing to witness the build-up of zebras surrounding us while enjoying our coffee. As expected, they started going down towards the river to drink, one by one. When a good number had gone down, four lionesses erupted out of the bush, successfully targeting one zebra. My guests were excited to have watched the entire drama of the hunt from start to finish. We drove off to stretch our legs discussed what to do next. I suggested we go back because I thought there was a chance the zebras might come back. My hunch was right: we went back and the same thing happened again – two lion kills in one day. To top it off, the following morning we decided to go back one more time, and again saw another two lion kills at the same spot. Four kills in 2 days!
Alice Mantaine – We left very early in the morning to find cheetahs on the Greater Mara side. Within half an hour of searching, we spotted a coalition of four grown brothers. They seemed to be on the prowl, so we patiently waited to see if they would hunt. Within no time, they spotted a male Thompson’s gazelle immediately took off after it. The chase was short, dramatic, and successful. But it seemed the tommie was not enough for them, and after hundreds of vultures descended upon their kill, the cheetahs were disturbed and left their meal. As they were looking for shade, one of them spotted a Grant’s gazelle again took off in hot pursuit. Again, the gazelle was no match for cheetah’s speed and we couldn’t believe we’d just seen two back-to-back cheetah kills.
Wilson Naitoi – My best sighting was A Collection: my guests and I managed to view 5 leopards, a caracal with a cub, a serval, and a velvety green night adder. Another amazing sighting was witnessing a crocodile kill three wildebeest and a lion killing two at the same crossing during migration.
Ericson Lemaalo – It was a great morning as I drove my guests along the Mara River to Main Crossing, searching for crocodiles and hippos. We were most surprised to find the coalition of 4 large male lions, including Scarface, feeding on a young hippo carcass near the river. I then noticed two lionesses with a cub on the far side of the river. As we watched, the lionesses communicated with cub before crossing the Mara River, leaving the cub by itself on the other side. They dodged their way through a horde of crocodiles, snarling, snapping and roaring before finally reaching the other side and joining males for lunch. Afterwards, the lionesses had to swim back through the crocodile-infested Mara River to reach the waiting cub. It was an amazing day for my guests and I to witness all this.
Titus Keteko – It was an easy, beautiful morning, and as we approached a crossing point on the Mara River, another safari vehicle with an excellent spot for viewing decided to leave after hours of waiting. We quickly took up their position and, as luck would have it, a big herd of wildebeest came running up to the waiting herd and pushed them into the river. It was all chaos and drama as we watched as the herds jumping into the river, crossing and getting swept by the river current downstream, with some unlucky ones ending up in the jaws of a monster crocodile. Suddenly, in the midst of the big herd, a lioness appeared at breakneck speed and caught one of the wildebeest by surprise, quickly strangling it to death before leaving it to go hide by some croton bushes. And again it went for another gnu, this one stranded by the riverside, and grabbed it by the neck and took it down. Then, using its strong jaws and powerful feet, it dragged its kill to the top of the bank. Our mouths were left open, blown away by the lioness’s instincts and ability to kill, when suddenly some cubs came running to join their mama for a feast.
Benjamin Obanda – One morning, I came across a battle between three male lions and seven large buffalo. The buffalo were chasing the lions, who had already seriously injured another buffalo. The lions ran away and took up a position where they could wait what would happen next. Sure enough, the buffalo eventually moved off, leaving the injured one behind. Two lions walked back to the scene as one was left behind, probably to look out if the buffalo would come back. After a battle that lasted for more than 5 hours, the lions finally killed the buffalo and dragged it to a safer place where they could feed in peace. Hyenas came running towards the kill, but they all stopped about 70m away when they realised three big male lions were there – much more difficult than lionesses to chase off a kill. So they prowled around and waited for an opportunity to scavenge some of the buffalo meat. It was my best sighting ever.
Douglas Onsongo – One day, near Kaburu Crossing during migration, I found a lioness hiding in the tall, tough elephant grass. As a crossing began, a mother wildebeest made it across before realizing she was missing her calf. So she turned around and went back to the river, calling for her calf. As she reached the edge of the river, looking at the opposite bank, the lioness tiptoed up behind her and took her unaware. The chase and kill was over quite quickly, but watching the story unfold was incredibly dramatic and my most memorable sighting of the year.
Kenneth Tanui – My most outstanding day this past year was when I went out on a full day game drive with my guests, and with all the luck we happened to see all the Big Five plus two kills and a crossing. In addition to all the buffalo and elephants always in the Mara Triangle, we found three rhino, two big male lions feasting on a buffalo, and a leopard that had killed a big male impala and was trying to take it up the tree. The crowning moment was seeing a cheetah kill a Thompson’s gazelle, which she shared with her two cubs. When we finally made it to the Mara River, we were lucky to find a mini-crossing of zebras and as we watched them cross, a huge crocodile came up and grabbed one of the zebras. That day was unbelievable.
Note from the Editor: these little stories were written by the guides, collated and trimmed by Tyler and put together by me. A team effort!
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